The Lloyd’s branch stood at where Bow Street, The Hill and North Street met. Once possessing two banks, Langport now has none. Not that I ever stood inside it, we banked at the National Westminster Bank, a building a couple doors down Bow Street.
The National Westminster branch was the Westminster Bank when I was young and my father used to remind me that the branch in Langport had previously been home of Stuckey’s Bank, which had been a major West Country bank at the end of the Nineteenth Century. The secretary of Stuckey’s Bank from the 1850s, was Walter Bagehot, a leading economist of his day and the writer of The English Constitution. Bagehot was said to have been buried in Langport churchyard, but I could never find his grave.
Lloyd’s Bank seemed to have customers very different from people like ourselves. It was the sort of place where you might have seen going in the door people like dark-suited solicitors, or vets in leather-elbowed tweed jackets and corduroy trousers with check shirts and deep-coloured ties, or gnarled-handed farmers in old sports jackets, moleskin trousers and heavy boots. Lloyd’s seemed the bank for those with more money.
Returning to live in England in 2017, I was surprised to find myself a customer of Lloyd’s. I would have returned to banking with NatWest, as do members of my family, but they wanted a UK utility bill. Lloyd’s seemed more willing to take me on my word.
There being no branch in Langport, I drove to Street. The branch there is a modern building without the soft cream sandstone character of the former premises in Langport. There was a sense of reassurance the first time I went there, there were no security screens. Behind the counter there was a pleasant smiling man wearing a check shirt and a dark-coloured tie; all he lacked was a tweed jacket to complete the image from my childhood.
Lloyd’s has had the genius required to reinvent itself. Banking has become a matter of taking out my mobile phone and using a fingerprint to open the Lloyd’s app. There seems no transaction that is not possible, from anywhere, 24 hours a day.
Best of all, though, there is an account called Club Lloyd’s. Without asking much of customers, it provides 0.6% interest on current accounts, which is a paltry rate, but a multiple of that offered by most institutions, and allows a free subscription to a magazine.
My first copy of the music magazine Mojo arrived this morning. It is hard to imagine that it would have been read by the customers of the Langport branch.